Do you ever wonder what you should be focusing on to improve your leadership skills and get ahead faster? There’s so much advice out there that sometimes it’s hard to know what actually works.
After growing my business over the past 15 years, as well as founding a local chapter of a national non-profit, I’ve learned a handful of strategies that have served me well in virtually every professional scenario I’ve encountered. These strategies have become my fundamentals. Whenever I’m facing a challenge or wondering what to do, I come back to these seven tactics to help guide me in the right direction. Over the years, they have become a great way for me to practice intentional leadership. After all, leadership doesn’t happen by accident; it takes intentional, consistent action and hard work.
As you hone your leadership skills, try putting these strategies into action:
- Be consistent.
Reliability is a quality that will suit you well, no matter your role or industry. When people know they can count on you to behave in a certain manner and follow through, they will give you even more responsibilities and opportunities. This is also how you build your reputation and make a name for yourself in your organization or industry.
- Be accountable.
A good leader rarely takes credit, but they step up quickly to take the blame. It’s hard to admit when you were wrong about something, but that’s how you earn respect. (And the bigger the screwup, the more accountability matters!) You might be surprised how far a simple “I’m sorry” or “that was my mistake” can go—both with colleagues and customers. Accountability is often the main thing people want when it comes to making a situation right. If you can be vulnerable and admit fault, people will think more of you—despite your mistake.
- Follow the mission, vision, and values.
If you’ve ever wondered what will get you noticed and impress your boss and senior leaders, start by embodying the characteristics and actions in the mission, vision, and values. This might seem like common sense, but it can be easy to overlook, especially if your company doesn’t provide ongoing communication or reminders on the topics. If you’re an entrepreneur, make sure you’ve defined your company’s mission, vision, and values, and that your team members understand them as well.
- Empower people to do their job.
When you let go, you give people the opportunity to shine. They might not do everything exactly as you would, but you should resist the urge to micromanage their projects. It will only suck up your time and frustrate your colleagues. (This is an area where I used to struggle. I practiced the mantra, “I am a great delegator,” and it served as a helpful reminder to have faith that my team would get the job done right.)
- Avoid DENIAL (Don’t, Even, Know, I, Am Lying).
Sometimes you’ll sense that a problem is brewing in the workplace, but it’ll be easier to turn a blind eye than to proactively deal with it. If you choose to go along as you normally would and pretend everything is fine, you’ll be feeding the problem the extra time it needs to grow and become bigger. One example of this is when an employee no longer seems to be a good fit at the company. Firing and hiring can be so much work but delaying the inevitable only makes it worse. Intentional leaders avoid DENIAL and make tough decisions quickly, just like ripping off a bandage. The old adage goes like this: “hire slowly but fire quickly,” and that advice is always going to stand the test of time. At my organization, we are deliberate about hiring people and they must pass a thorough vetting process before we bring them on to the team.
- Don’t break trust.
The best relationships are built on a foundation of trust. When colleagues and clients know they can count on you, it opens doors for a tremendous amount of growth. But unfortunately, all of that trust can be lost in an instant if you make a bad decision. Stupid mistakes can be forgiven quickly, but compromising your integrity is different. To avoid breaking trust, just do the right thing—even when no one is looking.
- Celebrate and share success.
Many employee engagement studies have shown that receiving recognition for a job well done is pivotal to feeling fulfilled at work. In other words, people want to know that they—and their work—are appreciated. That’s why it’s so important to call out wins, recognize colleagues for going above and beyond, and take time to celebrate success. At Belman Homes, we have a peer award every month called “The Top Dawg,” where people nominate their colleagues. The nominations are read out loud in the monthly meeting, so everyone gets to hear the nice things people said about them and the whole team stays in the loop on their colleagues’ achievements. We also have celebrations whenever our company wins an award. Our team members vote on a few different options, like renting a boat or going out to a nice dinner, and we take the time to celebrate together.When it comes to kickstarting your leadership growth, try focusing on the fundamentals. And as you hone your skills, remember to keep looking to others for inspiration and guidance. Notice what’s working for other people and tap into those strategies for your own development. You find yourself inspired by your colleagues, successful people in your industry, and even people who are younger than you and have less experience.Most of all, remember that the title of “leader” is earned, not given. You have to put in the work!